Top Georgia Students Lose Assured Scholarships

Lawmakers cut 4-year awards intended to encourage valedictorians to attend in-state schools.

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On the last day of this year's legislative session, Georgia lawmakers quietly voted to eliminate a four-year scholarship previously given to the state's valedictorians and other top students as incentives to attend college in state, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Georgia began its Governor's Scholarship Program in the mid-1980s. At the height of its popularity a decade later, about 3,000 students received more than $4.5 million in scholarship money. Today, half that number of students receive just $1.3 million in awards—a shrunken figure that amounts to about $900 per student and has led some state officials to question whether the scholarships are sufficient to serve their purpose.

Tim Connell, president of the Georgia Student Finance Commission, the state agency responsible for dispensing state scholarship and loan money, says the scholarship was no longer enough to persuade top students to pick a state college or university over a school with national prestige.

"Nine hundred dollars is probably not having a significant effect on (a prospective student's) decision making," Connell says. "It's not enough to say, 'Instead of going to Harvard or going to Vanderbilt or Duke, I am going to the University of Georgia.' It's probably become more of an 'attaboy' for valedictorians."

But in the worst economy of current college students' lifetimes, every dollar counts, and students who were promised award money for four years will have just a few months' notice that the scholarship funds will be cut off starting next fall. Officials from the Student Finance Commission began notifying the scholarship's 1,500 recipients of the legislature's decision about three weeks ago.

Joey Krumpach, a 19-year-old freshman at Georgia Gwinnett College, is one such student. Krumpach was valedictorian of his high school class and says he chose to attend an in-state college with his Governor's Scholarship award in mind. When he made his decision to attend Georgia Gwinnett, Krumpach says, he thought it was "the best education for the money."

University of Georgia